Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Bushevik Comes in From the Cold

Scott McClellan's revenge-ior is the latest attack on the Worst President. It is nice to see, but still late in the game. I tend to agree with UggaBugga that we should not hate McClellan for being late, and we should perhaps extend some sympathy for him.

Here is my comment I left at UggaBugga's place this morning:

I recall feeling at the time Ari Fleischer left that he was leaving a sinking ship and handing off the bag of s--t to McClellan. McClellan was trying to be loyal, and I think he really believed Rove and Co. were not lying to him about the Plame leak. I think his anger at being left out (of) the loop and then lied to is the motivating factor here.

I think McClellan always knew the Iraq War II was based upon manipulation and lies, but, like Communist Party members in the 1930s, always compartmentalized for the larger cause, and that cause for the Busheviks was the "liberation" of the Middle East.

And to take the Communist Party analogy further, I don't hate McClellan, either, for coming out from the shadows. Watching Fleischer on t.v. ripping McClellan is like watching Lillian Hellman rip a former Party member who left the Party before Khruschev blew the whistle in 1956.

And of course, lost in this is McClellan's point that corporate media, during the run up to the war and for months and months thereafter, was passive and likely pressured from the coprorate leaders controlling the media entities to play along with the Busheviks' manipulations and lies, as Glenn Greenwald discusses here. God forbid the corporate media would give a systemic analysis about McClellan's point instead of hurt feelings, novelistic portrayals of Bush administration officials feeling betrayed by McClellan, etc.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Asphalt Nation: Time to re-read...

As we watch gasoline prices climb through and past $4 a gallon, maybe the late 1990s book by Jane Holtz Kay, Asphalt Nation, is worth re-reading. When I read the first third of the book especially, I was amazed at just how much cars were embedded in our nation's politics, economics and culutre. Yeah, yeah, I thought I knew it all, and I knew alot about it. But Kay's marshaling of the history, economics and culture regarding our nation's love affair with the motor vehicle is worth looking at again in light of recent challenges and the rise of gasoline prices.

She was dismissed as a naive dreamer then, as are most people with a vision that requires us to challenge something so basic to our nation's politics, economics and culture. But shouldn't we be reading anew Kay's call for architectural and structural alternatives to cars sooner rather than later?

The Hidden History of "The MTA Song"

As talk of mass or public transit begins to come back into vogue, a meandering but wonderful article about the hidden history behind "The MTA Song" popularized by the Kingston Trio, is well worth the read from Dissent magazine.

What I got a last kick out of was that the article's research was funded by the Yip Harburg Foundation, which is named for the 1930s and 1940s lyricist, Yip Harburg, most known to the public as the lyricist for the film version of the "Wizard of Oz," and late in his life, the animated film, "Gay Purr-ee" (1962) with voice overs by Judy Garland, Robert Goulet and Red Buttons, among others. Less known was that Harburg was an independent minded socialist and activist throughout his life.

The tangled tales of culture, economics and politics...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Democrats say: Thank you, Bob Barr!

Bob Barr has been nominated for president by the Libertarian Party. Barr should receive about 4% of the vote this November, and will take most of those votes from voters who just can't stand voting for a Democrat and especially a half-black Democrat.

In other good news for Democrats, and particularly Senator Obama, at least one prominent Orange County libertarian sets forth various reasons why voting for Obama makes more sense than voting for McCain or even...Bob Barr.

I'm starting to feel a bit better for our nation, if Obama finally wins the Democratic Party's nomination for president. I am finally able to start believing that Obama may be able to secure sufficient votes to win the presidency.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Has Hillary done herself in...?

Hillary Clinton's stray line about RFK's assassination may be the gaffe the gaffe-happy corporate media uses to chase her out of the primary race for the Democratic Party nomination.

Here is the context of her statement:

Clinton told a newspaper board in South Dakota she could not understand calls for her to quit, arguing that history showed that some past nominating contests had gone on into June.

"My husband (Bill Clinton) did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary, somewhere in the middle of June, right?" Clinton said Friday in an interview with the Argus Leader newspaper editorial board.

"We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California, I don't understand it," Clinton said.

The context really does not help, and was still a horrible thing to say in the context of this historic campaign of her and Senator Obama. But in her defense, it is definitely true that the 1968 Democratic Party nomination for president was never really decided until the August convention. Perhaps if she said it that way...Oh well. Our corporate media will be focusing on this statement for the next few days and it does not matter how deeply she apologizes as far as the vacuous corporate media pundits are concerned.

Now, if any Hillary Clinton fan thinks the way she expressed herself is okay, then simply change a couple of things: Imagine if Hillary had been in Obama's current position, and imagine further that, say, Senator Joe Biden, who was also running for president early in this campaign season, was her last standing opponent--and Biden said what Hillary said. Ah, feeling the sting? If not, then Hillary supporters are not realizing that the atavistic hatred of Hillary Clinton among the right wing element in this nation has been somewhat muted and even displaced by the rise of Obama. My Mom has been concerned for Hillary's life ever she announced her candidacy for president, for example. Now she worries about both Hillary and Obama.

In any event, Hillary has allowed the process to consume her to the point of weariness and is no longer thinking as clearly as she normally would think. This, however, does not reflect badly on her ability to lead because, unlike persons running for president, presidents are given far more power to control their coverage and the timing of public statements. What Hillary's statement does show is she has become so obsessed with her quest that she could not see how terrible it was for her to say what she said in the way she said it.

Oh well. Anyone in the corporate media want to talk about health insurance for every American? Rebuilding the nation, and pushing mass transit?

(Sound of crickets in the shrubbery)

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Importance of Being Teddy

Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times nicely explains why all Americans, whether left, right, or whatever, owe thanks to Ted Kennedy. Rutten reminds us that Ted Kennedy did not have to maintain a passion for policies that helped vulnerable and oppressed peoples. In fact, Kennedy did not even have to stay in the Senate all these years. He stayed not just because of ego, but because he believes in public policy and that the role of government is to help people do better by each other. He has a nobleman's sense of duty toward those less fortunate, and was surprisingly not elitist in his personality, perhaps owing to the attacks on his own intelligence and dedication when he was young.

One of the things I have long found amazing is how some of the most right wing Senators over the years have been very complimentary toward, and friendly with Ted Kennedy over Kennedy's years of service. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was the person who confronted Ted about his drinking in the late 1980s, often heatedly confronted right wingers in Republican oriented meetings about his respect for Kennedy. He'd say that Kennedy, when he ran the Judiciary Committee, was always solicitous of Hatch's views on procedure and would allow Hatch to call committee hearings on subjects with which Kennedy disagreed. A true gentlemen and someone you can make a deal on a handshake, said Hatch, who originally came to the Senate with the public vow to fight Kennedy.

The same with former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY). Simpson, in a speech I saw him deliver to right wingers on C-Span, said how much he enjoyed zinging people who come up to him to say that Kennedy is the devil or something mean about Kennedy. He'd tell such people that Ted Kennedy's word was his bond and that Kennedy was one of the most honest men he'd ever met in public or private life.

Garry Wills, in his book, "The Kennedy Imprisonment" (Original hardcover, Little, Brown & Co., 1981), understood before many others that Ted Kennedy was the only Kennedy who consistently worked hard in the Senate. RFK worked much harder than JFK, but served only three years and was always looking to run for president. Ted, upon entering the Senate in January 1963, worked hard to learn congressional procedural rules, immersed himself in various public policy areas, including medical insurance, and listened to then old political lions about how to practically pass legislation.

I am glad Senator Kennedy is still around to receive the accolades that will continue to come his way, and to know that those accolades are sincere and heartfelt. As Rutten says at the end of his essay, quoting longtime Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen, "Jack and Bobby would have been proud" of Ted's career as a Senator, especially during the time liberal, New Deal politics were at their nadir in the Age of Reagan or in the land known as Nixonland.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time to redefine "pro-Israel" as excluding warmongering bedwetters?

This article in the NY Times solidly sets forth the reason for the provocative post title above.

It is a conceit for those who believe Israel must NEVER negotiate with Hamas or other terrorist organizations to be given the descriptive phrase "pro-Israel," when in fact, their views are not even shared by a majority of Israelis any longer--if they ever were. When one argues with such persons, one often finds a deep seated fear of Arabs and Muslims, and that their hawkishness is really based upon their being afraid, not confident in either Western values or Israel's continued military strength.

It is well past time to redefine the phrase "pro-Israel" to mean, or at least include, those who want Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and to stay out of Gaza. Perhaps it is even better to simply jettison the phrase "pro-Israel" when discussing political activists of various political views regarding Israel and the Middle East.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Superdelegate lemmings

Just as Hillary's crushing defeat of Obama in West Virginia revealed the number of voters who refuse to vote for someone who is half-black--even to the point of voting for a woman those same voters used to say they would not vote for--Democratic Party superdelegates continue to endorse Obama.

I am now of the view that Obama is going to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president. And Democratic Party activists are in for a rough fall campaign against McCain as they attempt to confront and overcome the quiet racism among voters below the polling radar and help those particular voters see why Obama is truly a great leader who will make a wonderful president compared to John McCain. And the political arguments in synagogues and temples are likely to be acute and potentially wounding to the sub-community comprising those synagogues and temples--and may make states like California, New York and New Jersey more competitive for McCain.

We could have had Gore no matter what the "realists" might argue. Contrary to people who say Gore would not have accepted a draft are two indisputable facts: Gore has not endorsed either Hillary or Obama. And more important, Gore never completely ruled out accepting a draft at the Democratic Party convention. The superdelegates failed to provide the stopgap, which is the reason they are superdelegates in the first place. I'm already hearing from Democratic Party voters who want a "do-over" who are not even delegates, let alone superdelegates. The superdelegates now endorsing Obama have failed to act responsibly.

Obama will likely limp over the finish line and reach the 2,026 delegates he needs. Sorry, Hillary. You tried to steer this nomination horse-race to the convention. The superdelegates have let down not merely you, but the Democratic Party overall and possibly the nation's destiny if McCain winds up winning in November.

Allow this heretic a prayer: Oh, Lord, our nation really wants to do right by each other and the planet overall. We really do. Please help enough of our citizens understand they have a duty to vote for the Democratic Party nominee this year, and that if it is Obama, that they vote with their best values for our nation, not their worst or most fearful values. And Lord, let's guide those with racist feelings away from those feelings, at least for a moment in a voting booth this November.

Sigh--oops, I mean, Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

California Supreme Court elitist decision on same sex marriage

First, here is Marty Lederman, a prominent lawyer blogger at law professor Jack Balkin's website, discussing "The Marriage Cases" from the California Supreme Court.

My initial reaction, after reading the decisions (majority, concurring and dissenting opinions), is how amusing it is to find how, once again, Republican appointees are the primary forces in promoting a legal conclusion that discrimination against homosexuals is as wrong as discrimination against African-Americans. Three of the four Justices are Republican appointees. And think about this: United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a known advocate of homosexual rights, is also a Republican appointee. Still, let's talk judicial philosophy with regard to this decision.

While I am very drawn to analogizing discrimination against homosexuals to discrimination against African-Americans, I am also concerned that a too strong acceptance of that logic undermines the ability of a society to draw lines that sometimes defy logical analogies. Courts used to recognize the need for caution when they would decline to hear a case that could be deemed a "political" question. To decline to hear a claim because it presents a "political question" is not pretty, but the principle provides a stopgap for the Court to not become involved in questions that the populace needs to sort out. Think Bush v. Gore, if you are pro-Democratic Party these days...

One may reasonably say that drawing societal lines based upon "sexual orientation" is different from doing so on the basis of the color of one's skin. The root word "sex" denotes a subject that makes many of us squeamish, if not crazy on ocassion. Trying to explain two adult women or two adult men holding hands to one's children is a lot more difficult or embarrassing for parents than explaining a black woman holding hands with a white man, to take perhaps a trivial example. But is such a concern about sex enough to overcome the logic of the analogy that discrimination against homosexuals is as wrong as the wrongful discrimination against African-Americans? I think the logic is personally compelling, but from the perspective of upholding a cautious judicial philosophy, the answer is probably that society ought to be able to draw the line that says "civil unions, yes, marriage, no" when it comes to homosexual rights in a society.

What I found interesting was how strongly the California Supreme Court's majority opinion depends upon this argument: The California Legislature, through the enactment of "domestic partnership" laws, has provided homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples except for the use of the word "marriage." Therefore, because the word "marriage" is a technical term that means essentially the same thing as a "domestic partnership," the Legislature, Executive branch and the populace acting through referenda (such as California's Proposition 22) cannot justify prohibiting homosexuals from being "married" in the eyes of the State of California.

UCLA law professor, Eugene Volokh, who appears to support the decision from his libertarian legal philosophical position, nonetheless notes that, for many years, "moderate" advocates of "domestic partnerships" and earlier court decisions granting certain employment and other public protections to homosexuals were saying there is no slippery slope to same sex marriage. Indeed, the California Supreme Court admits the US Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) 539 US 558, had explicitly stated its decision, which held that sodomy laws were an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, did not lead to any constitutional demand that a State must accept same sex marraiges (See: Footnote 10 of "The Marriage Cases", page 16). What the California Supreme Court has done, under Volokh's analysis, is undermine the ability of reformers to undertake piecemeal reforms and changes in a society--reforms which have themselves done much to change public attitudes on behalf of homosexuals and even same sex marriage.

The majority's opinion, in Section III(A), responds to my concern about the integrity of having a cautious judicial philosophy where they note the sex neutral language of various marriage statutes throughout California's history. Yet, the majority opinion acknowledges that no authority exists to support any conclusion that the drafters of those statutes ever thought it would mean homosexuals could apply for a State marriage license.

The majority opinion, in footnote 42, also cites Cass Sunstein's law review article on the right to marry, and Sunstein's view that the State could withdraw any state sanction of marriage without offending constitutional norms (However, I think the Court majority misread Sunstein's argument as meaning that the State could outlaw marriage, which would mean that the State could somehow prohibit people from becoming married in a private religious or non-religious ceremony--which would contravene fundamental rights to privacy and religious freedom). The Court, however, just glosses over Sunstein's points and continues to justify its decision on the basis that "marriage" is just a technical term devoid of religious meaning, and therefore culturally fungible.

But what these Republican elitist justices don't understand (otherwise they might be populists) is that the word "marriage" is not simply a technical word summarizing legal and tax rights. The word has a religious overtone, not merely a secular meaning. In earlier times, the State decided to become a partner with religion concerning "marriage," and perhaps, in light of other changes in the law regarding the relation of religion and government, the State ought not to be involved to the extent it entangles itself with the religious aspects of "marriage." Maybe the State should stop using the word "marriage" altogether and state there are only "domestic partnerships" for those seeking a government sanction regarding a union of two people who profess their love and commitment to each other.

The Republican elitist judicial appointees don't really think there is a reason for judicial humility before pushing a populace which is still working through the societal consequences of an implied finding that homosexuality is not only "virtually normal," but normal overall. That is something that makes me feel dreadful for even saying, as I would hate to be placed on the same "side" as those who are anti-homosexual. However, there is something to be said on behalf of a more cautious judicial philosophy and judges not getting too far out in front of society when society is sorting through something that goes to the heart of sexual relations.

(And of course, politically, it would be a horrible consequence if the Republican elite Justices of the California Supreme Court helped galvanize support for John McCain...)

Oh, and let this be a lesson for those who think the words "liberal" and "conservative," without qualifiers, are helpful to understand what someone's "philosophy" is across the political board.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A gentle, brilliant soul has bequeathed his spirit

There are gentle, brilliant souls out there, and Michael Rossman was one of those souls. A proud activist in the Berkeley Free Speech movement (and even before that mid-1960s student movement), Michael went on to teach science in public school in the decades after the era we often just call "The Sixties."

In the last few years, Michael was fighting a personal battle against leukemia, and yesterday, May 12, he passed away from complications from that disease.

For those who never heard of Michael, here is Michael's always never finished web page.

And if you've ever seen the brilliant documentary, "Berkeley in the Sixties," you've seen and heard Michael as a semi-prominent talking head, along with Art and Jackie Goldberg, and the often critical philosophy professor at Berkeley, John Searle (I admit to understanding some of Searle's frustration with the "kids", but that comes from being 50 years old myself!). What I recall about Michael's comments in the film, though, is how his comments gave us a glimpse of someone who rarely lost his sense of humor and humanity--no matter how much the mostly young students were beaten up and worse by an authority acting anything but lawful.

And to give you an idea that Michael's was a brilliant young mind back in those days, here is Michael with Lynne Hollander (who later married Mario Savio) writing in 1964 about "Administrative Pressures and Student Activity at the University of California" (God, I love the Internet!). If you are brave enough to read even part of it, just think of what our authority did to those young minds who asked legitimate questions and raised important societal issues during that decade. And think about how our leadership acted so violently and with such contempt toward these young brilliant minds in order for the succeeding generation to react with cyncism, and passivity.

One thing I will say, and perhaps it is sweeping too broadly, but I believe kids today are far more active than we give them credit for--but my generation who are now running much of corporate media ignore them, belittle them and give them no credit for doing what my generation was taught to avoid, fear, loathe and reject.

Michael, however, never really lost hope. Even when penning a goodbye to his friend Mario Savio, he wrote with his heart out front. His essay on Mario's passing, reading it briefly again this evening, not-so-strangely serves as a valedictory for Michael and the positive influences he had on his students and all those who knew him.

I didn't personally know Michael, but my uncle knew people who knew him, and I'd read about him from time to time. Still, I felt like I knew him, and I write this post to salute his spirit and humanity. Our best to his family and friends as they transition to life after Michael.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dealing with climate change skeptics...

The environmental on-line magazine, The Grist, has a handy web site link about how to deal with friends and family who just can't get over their denial regarding human contribuion to climate change.

See here.

Too bad this doesn't make the mass email rounds like the one that claims (wrongly, as most mass emails are) Obama is a radical Muslim...

Anyway, feel free to forward The Grist's response to climate change skeptics.

Israeli is safer and happier without the West Bank or Gaza

Two essays regarding the sensibilities of the Jewish citizens of the state of Israel on its 60th "birthday" reveal, once again, that those who do not want the Israeli government to speak with Hamas are the ones who have less faith in Israel's survival overall than those who are willing to speak with Hamas.

The two views are from:

Benny Morris, a prominent Israeli historian

Daniel Levy, a writer who lived in Israel most of his life.

Those of us who believe Israel should speak with Hamas ultimately have more faith in Israel's survival, and understand that what undermines Israel's security is precisely the occupation of the West Bank and semi-occupation (where Israel goes in and out as it pleases) in Gaza. So the usual "dove" v. "hawk" formulation more often misleads as to who is truly confident and strong about Israel. It is the peacemakers who are strong, confident and ultimately have more faith in Israel than the warmongers and fear peddlers who insist on Israel continuing its role as an occupier of land where others live.

There are, however, those who criticize Israel who often go over the top and forget that, in so many ways, Israel is a modern, Western nation which practices the best values of the modern Western world. Those values that are practiced in Israel should be especially celebrated on the occasion of Israel's 60th birthday. However, we should not have a blind love for Israel. So, also on this occasion, it is important to say that Israel will better live up to its best values when it withdraws from the West Bank and its semi-occupation of the Gaza area.


* In the initial posting, I had linked and identified a different second writer, who wrote an essay appearing in the Nation. Avi Shalim, the different second writer initially identified, is a history professor at Oxford who used to live in Israel. His article is here. I had meant to put in Levy's article all along, but got mixed up as I was trying to decide between Shalim and Morris to juxtapose with Levy. Such a mixup can happen, I suppose, and was quickly corrected...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Most western intellectual currents traveled through eugenics

Most Western intellectual currents traveled through the eugenics movement of the mid to late 19th Century through early 20th Century. See, for example, Edwin Black's "War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race" (Basic Books, 2004).

I bring this up because one of the hacks at the so-called "Discovery Institute," an organization dedicated to promoting creationism--or as they like to now call it, intelligent design--wrote his last column for the Jewish newspaper, The Forward. The hack, David Klinghoffer, viciously attacked Charles Darwin as the progenitor of Hitler, a favorite tactic of many intelligent design supporters. I know, I know, not very intelligent, which is actually the point I made in this letter to the editor I just sent via email to The Forward (I offer links, however, in this reposting of the letter):

"David Klinghoffer's valedictory essay only reveals, once again, his defective logic. Klinghoffer attacks Charles Darwin's theory on the ad hominem basis that Darwin's "Descent of Man" (1871) was racist and promoted Nazi philosophy. Klinghoffer writes as if there was only (one) influence on Hitler, i.e. Darwin, when, in fact, the "science" of eugenics had a wide range of supporters, liberal, conservative, left, right, up and down, throughout the mid- to late 19th Century in the U.S., England and most Western nations. One might as well attack vegetarians for producing Hitler (No, wait, that is Jonah Goldberg's job...).

"More telling about Klinghoffer is the fact that he works with the Discovery Institute, the leading organization promoting so-called "intelligent design." The Discovery Institute's amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the now infamous Dover School Board case (where the Dover, Pa. public school board tried to inject creationism aka intelligent design in science classes) included a strong, positive citation of Louis Agassiz, a leading 19th Century scientist and opponent of Darwin's Theory, who, said the Discovery Institute, was a proto-intelligent design proponent. Well, guess what? Agassiz also believed that there were "lower" races, mostly darker skinned, and believed in what science historians call "scientific racism." Unlike Darwin, who believed we humans descended from a common ancestor, Agassiz believed the various races on our planet were separately created. Agassiz's view was even cited by American pro-slavery forces to say "science said" blacks were truly different from, and inferior to whites. So who really is the direct line to Nazism, Darwin or the Discovery Institute's hero, Louis Agassiz?

"The ultimate irony of course is that Agassiz, an American, opposed slavery and loathed the brutal treatment of the African-heritage slaves, much as the Englishman Darwin was appalled at the mistreatment of blacks by whites in England, the U.S. and elsewhere. As the truly great Jewish science writer, the late Stephen Jay Gould, strove to remind us, people such as Darwin and Agassiz are more complex than shallow polemicists such as Klinghoffer would lead us to believe.

"The Forward's error was hiring Klinghoffer in the first place. He debased the editorial page with his ad hominem rants against liberals. And surely, it is an embarrassment for Klinghoffer, in his final column, to castigate "liberals" for being cruel and crude in emails or letters to him when he must be aware of the hateful invective that emanates from the right-wing side of the political fence, where Klinghoffer resides. Has Klinghoffer not heard Coulter, Limbaugh, Michael "Savage," Sean Hannity, and their hate-mongering cohorts?

"Anyway, good riddance to a lousy columnist."

Kind of sad that we constantly have to challenge these sorts of folks. But, I thought I'd do my too-little part. Still, I must admit to being hampered in my scientific knowledge because I am, alas, a mere humanities (not a science) major. My children have an interest in science that I hope they continue into adulthood, though, in doing so, I hope they maintain some humility about the history of scientific discovery and theory. They could start, for example, with Stephen Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" (WW Norton, 1981) or perhaps Barbara Ehrenreich's and Deidre English's "For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women" (Anchor, 1978).

He said it, not me...

NY Times columnist/blogger and economist, Paul Krugman, titles this post:

"Why you should hate economists"

Wow. I may think economists are more often morons, or people too dumb to be accountants, but still, "hate"? Oh, that Krugman. A shrill one, eh? ;)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Our corporate media being stupid...again

As we sit here watching Hillary possibly squeak out a victory in Indiana, and Obama winning big in North Carolina (largely due to a primary electorate for the Democrats that is largely African-American) here is a jumbled article from what may be an otherwise intelligent reporter at the McClatchy news service, Steven Thomma. After spending the first few paragraphs telling us time and delegates favor Obama, he finally clues readers in that neither Hillary nor Obama will win a majority of 2,025 delegates after the remaining primary elections are held. Thomma writes:

"First, it's important to remember that neither candidate will win enough delegates in the primaries to clinch the nomination. Each will fall short of the 2,025 necessary.

"Rather, they'll have to make their cases to the remaining 200 or so party insiders who get convention votes as "superdelegates" and get to vote how they like regardless of the primary or caucus results in their states.

"Ultimately looking for a winner who can defeat the Republicans in November, those superdelegates will look at which candidate won the most primary delegates, which won more popular votes and how each did with key voting blocs.

"With only four weeks left of voting, and only 217 delegates left to be awarded in the six contests, Obama has an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates needed to win the nomination."

Sorry, Mr. Thomma, but who gives a damn whether Obama is still ahead of Hillary by a slight amount after the primary season if neither he nor Hillary has a majority of delegates to win the nomination on a first ballot? Does Thomma buy into the nonsense that superdelegates' votes should not count? The superdelegates earned that status by being office holders and people very active in the Democratic Party who took the time to run for an office inside the party or for a public office. Note: I am NOT a delegate nor a superdelegate.

Does anyone recall thinking around May 2004 that they wished they could have a do-over as they helplessly watched corporate media pummel Kerry with attacks that left him wounded for the rest of the election that year? Isn't that what is happening to Obama and to a lesser extent Hillary right now? Yes, Hillary has piled on Obama while Obama has largely refrained from attacking Hillary, but really, the corporate media is doing the heavy lifting of attacks here. The corporate media's obsession with Rev. Wright (who himself did his damnedest to hurt his former pastoral constituent, Obama) was and remains stunning.

Still, don't many of us want a do-over with regard to Obama and Hillary at this point? Isn't it becoming clear that my Gore scenario offers the best chance for Democrats to unite for a 90 day sprint to the White House? The point of superdelegates is to ensure our party does not go over the cliff with a wounded candidate. It's a stopgap.

The question now is not whether Obama will be ahead of Hillary at the end of the primary season. The question is whether either one has enough delegates for a first round victory at the Democratic Party's convention in August. So far, neither will have enough delegates for a first round delegate balloting victory. And that leaves the door open for the return of Al Gore, tanned, rested and ready for a sprint to the White House.

What I like about Gore being drafted for the Democratic Party's nomination, among various things, is Gore is ready to run against the media in a way that has been so effective for Republicans. Gore's book, "The Assault on Reason," is his blueprint to reenforce an important message Americans are now ready to hear: The media is corporate, has corporate priorities that ignore and attack American nationhood and the well-being of the middle and working classes. Gore can just say over and over, to bigger and bigger applause, "The rich commentators on t.v., from George Will to George Stephanopolous and Candy Crowley, and those elitist newspaper reporters like Kit Seeyle and Ceci Connolly, never liked me. They were all wrong about Iraq, wrong about climate change in their looking for balance when the overwhelming evidence supports human contributions to climate change, and are wrong to oppose balancing the well being of working folks compared to international business interests."

Go Hillary. Stay in the race till the end. And then let's welcome back Al Gore. Just as Nixon came back in 1968 after losing a close one in 1960, Al Gore is ready to return in 2008 after winning the popular vote in 2000.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Review of Sunday book reviews: American conservatism looking in the mirror, and other observations

Rick Perstein, who has arrived as a superstar historian, has written a succinct and devastating review of former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards's latest book, which is also the latest attempt by Republicans and modern conservatives to redefine anything they specifically think of as bad policy as not conservative. The consistency of conservatives in American political leadership is their using the symbols of religion, the flag and authority when they are in power, and to use fear to get into power.

Perstein's review is required reading. It also got me to thinking about a book I am reading entitled "The Lion and the Unicorn" (2006, Norton & Co.) by a historian from Ireland, Richard Aldous. It is a wonderful book about the 19th Century political rivalry in England between the former Conservative Party turned Liberal Party leader William Gladstone and the former novelist, and later leader of the Conservative Party, Benjamin Disraeli. Having completed at this time the first 60% of the book, I am finding that Disraeli opposed or supported policies more out of a drive for power than a concern about public policy. A perfect example is the 1867 Reform Act that greatly expanded who could vote in England. The irony is that the Act was essentially the same as the one Gladstone sought, but Disraeli and the Conservatives opposed. Gladstone's failure to pass a reform act in 1865 and 1866 led to a loss of power to the Conservatives, whereupon Disraeli slowly and then decisively undermined his own party to embrace reform and later an amendment to the new reform legislation from the Liberals that significantly expanded the vote--something the Conservatives had found completely outrageous when Gladstone's Liberals were supporting voting reform. It's like Nixon goes to China, isn't it? Still, one can safely argue that the only ideology of Republicans, since at least Harding's time in the 1920s, is that it is the party that promotes and tries to protect the economically wealthiest interests.

Whether they are really doing the wealthiest interests a service is subject to some debate, where one may say the Democratic Party in the 20th Century (even including Carter in the mix) did more to raise all economic boats, including the wealthy.

The Post also includes a deftly written review of Sean Wilentz's "The Age of Reagan, A History 1974-2008" by noted populist intellectual and political consultant, Kevin Phillips. Phillips was the perfect person to review this book because he, as a Republican operative for Nixon, has long grown disillusioned with Republican Party's kow-towing to the religious Right, and grown more dismayed with the increasing divide between the top 1-5% and everyone else in America (see his "Post-Conservative America" (Vintage, 1983) and "The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath" (Random House, 1990)).

Phillips' review is telling because Sean Wilentz appears to have written an important and powerful book. Phillips' concerns are somewhat legitimate, but may be obscuring some jealousy on Phillips' part for his not coming up with Wilentz's sweeping historical phrase. Phillips has a right to be a bit jealous, however. For if one read the two books I cited above from Phillips, one can see Wilentz owes a debt to Phillips. Phillips, as with Perstein, recognizes that Reagan was himself a deformation of the Goldwater Right at the start of the "Reagan Revolution" in Washington DC and corporate boardrooms across the U.S. Bush II is not a betrayal of Reagan as much as
an heir of Reagan. Just as David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, knew that cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans was the real agenda for Reagan, not helping the middle class religious voters restore "traditional" values, so does Bush understand who his real constituency is (see this YouTube video, which is a very revealing "joke" Bush told to a group of wealthy supporters in the early years of his presidency).

There are other reviews in this week's Washington Post Book World worth reading which should be checked out.

Some words, too, about today's New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Please check out Francie Prose's descriptive, though not as compelling a review as she normally provides, for what sounds like a solid novel about a woman's life in China in the mid 20th Century.

Here is a smart review of Kurt Vonnegut's posthumously published book of essays, which book contains Vonnegut's son, Mark's introduction.

And here is David Margolick's solid review of Israeli historian Benny Morris' latest book, which concerns a late massacre by Israeli soliders of Palestinians late in the 1948 War between Israel and the immediately surrounding Arab nations. American Jews who believe in Israel right-or-wrong will find much information they probably did not know before. Send the review to those American Jews with Likudnik tendencies and watch them twitch and froth at the mouth...

A cornucopia of newspaper book review reading on the web today, eh?


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Syngogue sign desecration in Poway

This past Sunday, at the synagogue in which I serve as president, the synagogue's sign or monument was desecrated with American Nazi movement symbols. Neither myself nor our spiritual leader at Ner Tamid synagogue, who first saw the sign desecration, knew they were Nazi symbols until the police investigated and told us they were filing the report as a "hate crime." The FBI is now involved, too.

At first, I wondered why bother doing anything other than paint over the symbols? The last time this happened anywhere in San Diego was five or six years ago at another temple. However, a member of the synagogue, who is a member of the Anti-Defamation League ("ADL")*, said to me that Sunday that we need to recognize this was an attack on the Jewish community, not a single temple or synagogue. Therefore, after a Board meeting on Tuesday, two days later, and consulting with synagogue members, and the ADL's leadership in San Diego, we decided to go public.

See this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune and, if you do an in-Website search here, you may find the video of the local Fox affiliate covering the press conference. I was impressed with the Fox report because they made sure to include my positive words at the conference about the community in which we live.

Crime Stoppers, the National Hate Crime Fund and the ADL have pooled money together for a reward of $11,500 for information leading to the arrest, and I believe, conviction of the perpetrators. That, I have to say, knocked me out. For the police said that rewards are often effective in helping solve these sorts of property crimes.

The sign has been repainted through the efforts of a volunteer who is a member of the synagogue. The outpouring of sympathy and support from the community after the press conference has been amazing. A local Muslim group called the day after the press conference and offered to repaint the sign. Christian churches and individuals called to express their sadness and their deep sympathy, and one church, The Well, brought us condolence cards from their school children. The pastor at The Well, Rik Wadge, is a wonderful human being and is a regular attendee at our Saturday morning services. He is an open minded person who believes in multicultural approaches to God, and also has respect for those who are non-believers.

As I have said over the past few days, and starting at the press conference, the sign desecration is not a reflection on Poway or the surrounding community. It is the work of a few hateful vandals, at most. The response of the community is what reflects on the community, and that reflects positively on the community. It responded warmly and they have let us know we are not alone. The phone rang off the hook at the synagogue these past two days, and a few people sent monetary donations to us, even though we told them that a member of the synagogue was painting the sign and not asking us to pay for the repainting.

I think it is important to emphasize again that people in most places in America are fundamentally decent, and too often, we overemphasize those who commit heinous crimes, those who have hate in their hearts and those who do not have respect for the diversity that exists in nearly each American community. I don't believe we have to love one another, as I like to say even within our synagogue. However, we do owe each other respect and a duty to be there for each other when we face a crisis or life's other challenges.

* This venerable legal-oriented organization was founded in 1913. I have my disagreements with its national leader, Abe Foxman (See this January 14, 2007 article from the New York Times for what I'm generally talking about). However, I am glad it exists and thrives overall. It does important work in filing legal briefs in support of gay rights, protecting against government intrusion into religion, and religious intrusion into the public square, among other public policy issues. I had been a member of the Orange County chapter of the ADL during the late 1980s, I should add.